Court to weigh group’s effort to block nuclear plant rescue

COLUMBUS (AP) — The state Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear arguments from a group attempting to overturn the roughly $1 billion financial rescue of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants.

Lawmakers in July approved the rescue by adding a new fee on every electricity bill in the state and scaling back requirements that utilities generate more power from wind and solar. The fees will generate $150 million a year beginning in 2021 for FirstEnergy Solutions’ two nuclear plants near Toledo and Cleveland.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts argued in federal court earlier this year the state waited so long to authorize its proposed ballot initiative that it didn’t have enough time to collect the 265,000 signatures required.

Under state law, referendum seekers have 90 days to collect and submit valid signatures. But the group said it lost 38 days while waiting for the state to approve its petition language.

The group’s attorneys also alleged backers of the plants tried to sabotage the petition drive by spending millions on misleading advertising as well as blocking people from collecting signatures and offering them money to quit their efforts.

Federal Judge Edmund Sargus said the issues they raised dealt with state law and belonged before the Ohio Supreme Court.